Boston Red Sox

Original Published Date: November 27, 2015

It’s been a tough two years for the Boston Red Sox.  The moves they have made at the big league level have just not worked and after a second losing season, Ben Cherington paid the price as the Red Sox hired Dave Dombroski to lead the organization.

While Cherington’s strength was in scouting and player development, Dombroski strength is in making trades to better the big league club.  He did it time and time again in Detroit and will likely follow suit in Boston.  The good news is that the Red Sox have a very good minor league system as well as depth in the major leagues.

Leading the list of stud prospects is Yoan Moncada.  The Red Sox paid a fortune for him last winter and after knocking the rust off in May and June, played very well in the second half.  Many argued that his teammate, Rafael Devers has more upside and after seeing both play, I can see why some would make that statement.  While I like Moncada more, Devers profiles as a power hitting third baseman who could move quickly through the system.

The Red Sox also grabbed Andrew Benintendi, the 2015 Golden Spike winner in the 2015 draft and he got off to a quick start.  He has a ceiling of a first division starter and could also move quickly through the system.  If that is not enough, Anderson Espinoza exploded onto the scene last year and flashed the kind of stuff that could put him at the top-of-the-rotation one day.

Dombroski has a lot to work with as he settles into his new role.  It’s going to be fascinating to see how things unfold for Red Sox Nation.  Don’t be surprised if this list looks much different next year.

1. Yoan Moncada (2B)

2016 Age: 21 Ceiling: All Star
Ht: 6-2 Weight: 205 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2017
2015 A 306 68 8 38 49 .278 .380 72.9 11.6 .353

Most casual prospect watchers know the name, Yoan Moncada.  Last winter, a bidding war unfolded with all of the big money teams, and actually some of the smaller revenue teams, vying for the services of 20-year-old Yoan Moncada.   Scouts and baseball executives flew to showcases where Moncada ran impressive 60-yard dashes, hit massive home runs, all while wearing a shirt two-sizes too small to show off his impressive upper body.  It worked as Moncada received a $31.5 million dollar signing bonus from the Red Sox who also had to pay another $31 million dollars for violating the international signing threshold.

Once he signed, the hype machine was in full overdrive with most predicting that Moncada would move quickly through the system, while some declaring that he would see Boston by the end of the season.  However, the movie script hit a snag when Moncada got off to a terrible start, posting a slash line of .229/.288/.321 after his first six weeks in Low-A with 34 strikeouts in 109 at-bats.

Wanting to see what the hype was all about, I ventured down to Lakewood New Jersey to catch a series with the Greenville Drive in mid-June and it was not good.  During game play, Moncada looked lost.  He had trouble picking up spin and played very tentatively in the field.  However, I also got a chance to see him in batting practice and it was easy to see what the fuss was all about.  He showed impressive bat speed, plus raw power and the ability to make hard contact.  Plus, in-game I clocked him at 4.03 to first, not only showing plus speed but a lot of hustle.  Maybe I was drunk on the hype but I concluded he was the real deal and just rusty.  Furthermore, I ranked him number four on our mid-season Top 50 list and took a lot of criticism.  Fortunately, Moncada bailed me out as he shook the rust off in the second half and exploded.  His final stat line was an impressive .818 OPS with eight home runs and 49 stolen bases.

Scouting Report:  The hype is indeed true and Moncada has a chance to be a special offensive player in the big leagues.   He’s athletic with plus bat speed, plus foot speed and an approach that should allow him to have a plus hit-tool.  When I scouted him, he looked anxious at the plate but subsequent reports I received suggested that he was more comfortable at the plate, showing an ability to control the strike zone better.

While he’s a plus runner, I’m not sure he’s a 50 stolen base player.  He’s a big strong kid that’s going to continue to grow, so I think a 20 to 25 stolen base threat early in his career is a better benchmark.  While his eight home runs were not impressive, there is plus in-game power in his game.  I think the ceiling is a 25 HR/25 SB player who can bat .280 hitting in the three hole of a lineup.

Fantasy Impact:  If you grabbed Moncada last year in your Dynasty League draft, congratulations.  He has the highest ceiling of any offensive player left in the minors with a chance to be a perennial first round draft pick.  The Red Sox should start him at High-A to begin the 2016 season with a very good chance to see the Eastern League before the season is over.  Of course the elephant in the room is Dustin Pedroia.  Moncada is blocked by him and while he could slide over and play third or even move to the outfield, he’s probably best suited for the keystone.  How will the Red Sox reconcile this?  I’m not sure, but they will surely figure it out.

2. Rafael Devers (3B)

2016 Age: 19 Ceiling: All Star
Ht: 6-0 Weight: 195 Bats: Left Throws: Right ETA: 2018
2015 A 469 71 11 70 3 .288 .329 82.1 4.7 .326

As good as Yoan Moncada was for the Greenvile Drive, Rafael Devers might have been better.  He posted a .288/.329/.443 slash line in 115 games while adding 11 home runs.  Not impressed?  He played the entire year as an 18-year-old and didn’t turn 19 until October 24th, making him the third youngest player in the league.

While we don’t know how the Red Sox will change their player development process after the hiring of Dave Dombrowski, Devers has a chance to move very quickly through the system.  He’ll likely start the year in Salem but could easily see Portland by the end of the summer.  That would put his arrival date in Boston at mid-2017 or 2018.  With Hanley due to come off the books at the end of 2018, the timing could work with Devers possibly moving to first or Pablo Sandoval moving to first and Devers taking over at third.  However, I’m getting WAY ahead of myself because a lot can change between now and then.

Scouting Report:  Devers is the real deal.  He could easily be number one on this list and is a Top 25 prospect talent in the game.   His carrying tool is plus bat speed and strength that should allow him to hit for plus in-game future power.  While he’s only 6-foot and 190 pounds, he has a thick lower half and will only get larger as he matures and fills out.  It’s for this reason that we believe Devers might eventually move to first but the bat should be enough to play there.

While Devers will likely be labeled a “slugger”, he makes excellent contact (82%) and profiles to have an average future hit tool as well.  He’s currently very aggressive at the plate but if he improves there, the hit tool has a chance to improve as well.  He is a below average runner so speed will not be part of his game.

Fantasy Impact:  Power is at a premium in the fantasy game and Devers has 30 home run future potential.  His contactability though is what gets us the most excited and why we have him as an elite prospect.  The ceiling is a 30 home run, 100 RBI, .270 player.  While we would love that to be at third, that will play just fine at first.

3. Andrew Benintendi (OF)

2016 Age: 21 Ceiling: All Star
Ht: 5-10 Weight: 170 Bats: Left Throws: Left  ETA: 2017
2015 SS,A 198 36 11 31 10 .313 .416 87.9 14.6 .307

The addition of Andrew Benintendi made a really good system that much better.  Drafted number seven overall in the 2015 first year player draft, Benintendi was coming off a tremendous season at the University of Arkansas where he posted a 1.205 OPS with 20 home runs and 24 stolen bases.  This led to a host of awards including the Golden Spikes award for the best amateur baseball player in the United States.

Benintendi hit the ground running in his professional debut posting a .972 OPS in 54 games across the New York Penn League and Low-A.  While he only played 19 games in Greenville, he simply added to the most prospect laden team in baseball.  It’s amazing with all that talent, Greenville finished 13.5 games behind the division winner and missed the playoffs.  Oh yeah, you need pitching.  The Greenville starters posted a 4.25 ERA and if weren’t for Michael Kopech, it would have been much worse.

Scouting Report:  At 5-10 and 170 pounds, Benintendi is not a big kid but generates plus bat speed with a definite pull swing to generate his power.  He has enough barrel control and torque to have power to all fields and the Red Sox will likely begin to move him in that direction.  While he could project to hit 20 plus home runs annually, I’m more comfortable suggesting 12 to 18.

In the early going, Benintendi has shown excellent contactability and the ability to control the strike zone.  I do think he’ll strikeout more than he did in first exposure to professional ball, but a 15% strikeout rate and a 10% walk rate should be a good baseline going forward.

Finally, Benintendi is a plus runner and that should translate to 20 plus stolen bases annually.  It’s an impressive overall profile and if it weren’t for some of the other talent in the organization, he would be ranked number one.

Fantasy Impact: Benintendi has a chance to be fantasy stud.  I’ve seen him live and he’s a pretty special talent.  I would be targeting him as one of the top three players in an annual Dynasty League re-draft.  He should also move quickly with a chance to see Boston by as early as 2017.

4. Anderson Espinoza (RHP)

2016 Age: 18 Ceiling: #1/#2 starter
Ht: 6-0 Weight: 160 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2016-17
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2015 DSL,R,A 58.1 41 8 0 2.16 10.03 1.23 0.94

The Red Sox paid Anderson Espinoza a $1.8 million dollar signing bonus in July of 2014, a substantial amount for a Latin pitcher.  That said, in his first professional season, Espinoza has made the Red Sox looks very smart.

After dominating the DSL in 15 innings, the Red Sox brought the 17-year-old righty to the US and he dominated the Gulf Coast League in his 40 innings.  He struck out 40, walked nine while only giving up four earned runs.  The performance earned him a start in Salem at the end of the season.  He’ll likely start 2016 back in Salem and given his advanced stuff and pitchability, he could be on an express path to Boston.

Scouting Report:  Espinoza has an advanced three pitch mix that begins with his double-plus fastball. The pitch sits 94 to 96 MPH but he routinely hits the upper nineties and even 100 MPH at times. He complements the fastball with a plus curve ball that some have told me could get big league hitters out today.  He also shows a feel for a change-up with reports that it too could be a plus pitch.  If you’re keeping count, that’s three potential plus pitches.

Espinoza’s has a very simple and easy delivery and at 17, is already able to repeat his delivery.  He’s already showed above-average control and that should continue to improve as he pitches more.  The one negative that I see is his size.  He’s only listed at 6-foot and 160 pounds but most believe he’s heavier than that now.  The fact is he’s not a big guy and that always a concern.  Everyone will point to Pedro Martinez but so far, there’s only been one Pedro.  That said, there’s a lot to like about Espinoza as arms like that do not grow on trees.

Fantasy Impact:  He’s only 17, but the ceiling is sky high for Espinoza. With his arsenal and current control, he has the stuff to be an ace.  However, his size does worry us and he’s very young.  While we haven’t done our Top 100 list yet, based purely on upside, he’s easily there and in fact, would be a Top 50 selection.  Does he make it once we risk-adjust, well, I guess you’ll have to check back in January.

5. Michael Kopech (RHP)

2016 Age: 20 Ceiling: #2 starter
Ht: 6-0 Weight: 205 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2018
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2015 A 65.0 53 19 2 3.74 9.69 2.63 1.23

Michael Kopech was having a very good season in Salem before testing positive for Oxilofrine, a banned stimulant.  Kopech apologized and said he didn’t have knowledge of ingesting the drug but nevertheless, he lost 50 games of important development.

Before the suspension, he pitched great.  In 16 games (15 started), he posted a 2.63 ERA, striking over a batter an inning while walking 3.74 per nine.  He pitches down in the zone with batters beating balls into the ground at a very good clip (2.38 ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio).

Scouting Report:  At 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, Kopech has the size and athleticism that teams are constantly looking for in the draft. He has tremendous arm strength with his fastball hitting the upper nineties regularly during starts.  His secondary pitches show promise but both his slider and change-up need a lot of work.  His slider is further ahead and has the shape and tilt that you like to see, but it’s just not consistent.

Kopech’s delivery is interesting.  While I’ve only seen him pitch on videos, there’s a ton of moving parts in his delivery.  While some would call it funky, there’s so much involved that he’ll likely struggle to repeat his delivery unless he works on simplifying it.  The Red Sox have in fact done that and the results are reportedly encouraging.  Again, I’ve not seen the results first hand as the time I laid eyes on the Greenville squad was when Kopech was suspended.

Fantasy Impact:  Kopech has a chance to be a very good pitcher in the major leagues.  He needs to tone down his delivery but the arm is special.  The ceiling is a number two starter with plenty of strikeouts.  It’s hard to predict how much control he will have over his stuff, but he’s the kind of young pitcher I love to roster on a Dynasty League.  He throws hard and is an athlete.  Hopefully, the Red Sox will teach him how to pitch.

6. Deven Marrero (SS)

2016 Age: 25 Ceiling: Solid Reg
Ht: 6-1 Weight: 195 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2015
2015 AAA 375 49 6 29 12 .256 .316 76.8 7.9 .315

Deven Marrero was drafted in the first round of the 2012 first year player draft out of the Arizona State University and made his major league debut this year.  Marrero is a natural shortstop and has played that position his entire professional career.  However, with Xander Bogarets quickly becoming one of the best young players in the game, Marrero played a lot of third in his September callup.  The problem is I’m not convinced that his bat is strong enough to profile at the hot corner and with Pedroia manning second, Marrero might need a change of address to get consistent big league at-bats.

Scouting Report:  Marrero’s ceiling is an everyday shortstop at the highest level.  He’s a plus defender with enough offensive skills to post a .260/.320 batting average/on-base percentage split.  He has below average raw power but is strong enough with enough bat speed to hit five to eight home runs annually.  He’s an average runner with enough skills to steal double-digit bases annually.

Marrero has little left to prove in the minor leagues and is ready to move his game full-time to the majors.  As stated earlier, he’s blocked at shortstop and second base and just doesn’t have enough offensive upside to play third.  That makes him a likely utility player in Boston or a trade chip this off season.

Fantasy Impact:  Marrero is not owned in many Dynasty Leagues and for good reason.  His ceiling is a 10 HR/15 SB, .260 player.  That said, he’s big league ready, so he should probably be owned in all Dynasty Leagues who roster 300 or less minor league players.

7. Sam Travis (1B)

2016 Age: 22 Ceiling: Solid Reg
Ht: 6-0 Weight: 195 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2017
2015 A+,AA 489 70 9 78 19 .307 .381 84.3 10.6 .344

While Travis Shaw has been impressive in his limited big league exposure, another Travis; Sam Travis has also been impressive for the Red Sox.   Sam Travis was drafted in the second round of the 2014 first year player draft and posted an .833 OPS across High and Double-A last year.  He also added nine home runs and a surprising 19 stolen bases.

Scouting Report:  Sam Travis is a hitter.  In 848 plate appearances, he has only struck out 109 times while walking 70 times.  While his swing lacks loft, he’s strong enough with plenty of bat speed that projecting 15 to 18 home runs feels reasonable.  Travis is a below average runner, so I’m not sure where the 19 stolen bases came from.  However, he did get caught 12 times, so perhaps the coaches will slow him down next year.

As a first base only prospect, Travis is going to have to hit and hit with power in order to get full-time at-bats at the highest level.  The question is around his power.  If he can max out his upper limit, he could have a Brandon Belt type of career, but if we are wrong on his power upside, he’s more James Loney.  I actually believe Belt has more power in his bat and is held back by AT&T Park, so comparing Travis to Belt might not be fair.

Fantasy Impact:  From a fantasy standpoint, Travis might be a tweener.  He can hit and that will get him to the big leagues but I’m worried that there is not enough power to warrant adding him to Dynasty Leagues that roster less than 300 players.

8. Michael Chavis (3B)

2016 Age: 21 Ceiling: 1st Div
Ht: 5-10 Weight: 190 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2018
2015 A 435 56 16 58 6 .223 .277 66.9 6.2 .293

Michael Chavis didn’t have a great season in 2015.  In 109 games in Low-A, he slashed .223/.277/.405, striking out 144 times while only walking 29 times.  He did play better in the second half but by no means was it a good statistical year.  However, he played most of the year as a 19-year-old and still flashed the premium bat speed that got him drafted in first round of the 2014 first year player draft (pick 26)

Scouting Report:  Chavis has the kind of bat speed and strength that should allow him to hit for future plus power.  He did flash his power at Greenville were he hit 16 bombs in 471 plate appearances.  The problem is that it came with a 67% contact rate, which was a surprise to me.  In analyzing some of his in-game swings, it looked like he was selling out for power.  Instead of just hitting the ball hard, he was pulling everything which messed with his timing.  He also became very aggressive at the plate and the combination just didn’t work.

Fantasy Impact:  While some Dynasty League owners have given up on Chavis, I’m not.  I love the swing, the bat speed and the makeup of the player.  He’s still has first division upside, it’s just going to take some time.

9. Luis Alexander Basabe (OF)

2016 Age: 19 Ceiling: Solid Reg
Ht: 6-2 Weight: 160 Bats: Both Throws: Right ETA: 2019
2015 SS 222 36 7 23 15 .243 .340 69.8 12.5 .315

The Red Sox signed Luis Alexander Basabe out of Venezuela in 2012 for $450,000 and after spending parts of two seasons in the DSL, he made his way state-side in 2014 for 32 games in the Gulf Coast League.  The Sox held him back in the Complex League to begin the 2015 season and then sent him to Lowell for 56 games where he held his own as one of the youngest players in the league.

In 222 at-bats, Basabe hit .243/.340/.401 with seven home runs and 15 stolen bases. He did strikeout too many time (26.2%) but showed a good understanding of the strike zone, walking 12.5% of the time.  The Red Sox saw enough in Basabe that they will likely start him in Low-A to begin the 2016 season.

Scouting Report:  Basabe is very athletic but is still learning to play the game.  He has above-average speed, plus bat speed and is solid defender.  He’s still learning to control the strike zone but the swing is solid and he does recognize breaking pitches.   His swing can get long and he needs to continue to work on being short to the ball.  While he’s still three to four years away from the big leagues, he has all the tools to be a solid major league regular.

Fantasy Impact:  Dynasty League owners are always clamoring for “sleepers”.  Well, here you go.  I doubt Basabe is owned in many leagues and while he has a long way to go, the upside is high.  If it all comes together he could be a 20 HR/20 SB player with a .260 plus batting average.  Remember though, he’s a long way off.

10. Trey Ball (LHP)

2016 Age: 22 Ceiling: #4 starter
Ht: 6-6 Weight: 185 Bats: Left Throws: Left ETA: 2017
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2015 A+ 129.1 129 68 16 4.18 5.36 4.73 1.46

When the Red Sox drafted Trey Ball as the number seven overall player in the 2012 first year player draft, they knew he was going to be project, but I doubt they knew it was going to be a “PROJECT”.

Ball has really struggled in his first three years of professional baseball.  In 52 starts, he’s posted a 4.76 ERA, striking out less than six per nine and walking four per nine.  Plus, he’s given up more hits than innings pitched.  While the stat line is not good, he is improving and the stuff is better than the results.  While the ceiling is not a top-of-the-rotation performer, he still has a chance to be a number four starter for the Red Sox down the road.

Scouting Report:  Ball has the physicality of the modern pitcher – 6-foot-6 and a lanky 185 pounds.  He has good stuff with a fastball that sits 90 to 91 MPH with a chance to pick up a tick as he fills out.  His promising curveball that he showed in high school is still very inconsistent, but if you catch him on the right day, you can see why the Red Sox paid him a 2.75 million dollar signing bonus.  The pitch could be a real weapon.

The Red Sox will likely continue to push Ball through the system and hope that his performance starts to catchup to his scouting report.  When it does, he could be solid mid-rotation starter with the ability to log significant innings.

Fantasy Impact:  Ball is owned in most Dynasty Leagues given his draft pedigree.  If you are an owner, it’s been tough and you might be considering dropping him.  Candidly, I wouldn’t stop you.  The tools are there but he’s still a long way off and at some point you have to drop players and move on.  In the end, his ceiling is a solid fantasy contributor but he’s not going to be one of your top two pitchers.

2016 Emerging Prospect

Austin Rei (C)

Austin Rei was drafted in the third round of the 2015 first year player draft as a premium catching prospect with some offensive upside.  The offense did not show up in his first exposure to professional ball, but most observers believe he has a chance to be a solid offensive contributor.  He has good bat speed with some pop, hitting seven home runs in an abbreviated last year in college.

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